When it rains, the risks associated with bicycling increase by magnitudes. Everyone’s vision is impaired, their sound muted, and tensions high. There’s generally more traffic in rainy commutes, and everyone is eager to escape the weather. The combination of dangers and frustrations make biking to work in the rain almost not worth it.
It rained this morning. On the way to Northeastern I said a few words to a cyclist in front of me at a red light. “Still beats driving, right?” but he just nodded and started up. Not more than 1000 feet later I saw him traveling around 15 mph at the intersection of Longwood at Kent St., where a car riding in unison failed to see him, and turned into his path through the light. The collision was avoided only because the cyclist perceived the car’s failure to yield and slowed down in anticipation that they might turn, not being able to see their signal. As I was about 100′ behind I both saw the signal and the turn, and was likely the only person who could have yelled out before he noticed. He chased after the car – they drove at a taunting pace away, though I am not sure if they did stop or not.
Another 100′ down the street past Kent St at Longwood at Chapel St., 3 Brookline Police were stationed on bicycles. In the rain, they must not have heard his yelling. So I biked over to them, and told them quickly that a car had hooked this guy, and then started driving away. One reached for his mic, but looked around and inquired more, asking me to draw a diagram and picture of the car. But really, they just stood there not knowing what to do, while this cyclist chased after the car to who knows what end.
“Whats going on at this intersection?” Longwood at Chapel St – last exit in Brookline before crossing the Muddy River to Boston. So why are there 3 officers at this one intersection. I imagine the rational is a history of crashes and conflicts at this particular intersection. Or, more likely, a history of cyclists running this red light and crossing on a red. For any reason, they were probably told to ‘go stand there for a while’. Hand out a few tickets if you see anything, but hopefully you wont – since you’re out there every day. At the same intersection.
This afternoon I took the same route back home. Most of my ride was conflict-free, despite being in heavy traffic. I took the path from Longwood over the Muddy River, to the intersection with Chapel St where the officers were stationed. First I’ll admit, I went on a PED phase which is also the left turn from Riverway to Longwood. As I merged on the right side of the cars, I checked over my shoulder to see if I could move left to avoid a truck turning right onto Chapel. I thought he was turning and had a second, took a peek, looked back, and slammed on the brakes before skidding into the back gate of the Ford (or..whatever). Fairly unphased, I realized something was wrong with my bike, and started to move out of the way.. the guy got out of his truck, confused, asked if I was alright, shook my hand, and left. The guy driving behind me came out and asked me if I was alright after, as did one of the cyclists I rode by as I crossed during the PED phase. Whoops.
Anyhow, I fix my bike (minus the front brakes) and continue. About 100′ after I pass Longwood at Kent St, I hear honking and turn to see a car riding in unison with a cyclist. They honked several times in short succession, seemingly wanting to warn the cyclist they were about to turn into him. He kept riding, and they yielded, but I couldn’t tell exactly what happened. So I let him catch up to me and asked, and he said he couldn’t tell what they were trying to do or if they thought they had right of way. As we talked, he told me he’s been in 3 accidents, and told me one where he was hit or merged into by someone one a cell phone – I didn’t learn about the others.
Not many people would continue to do something with this type of risk.
Eventually you have to think, it’s only a matter of time before I’ll get eaten by a car or truck, too.
And so it goes.